The fall is extra warm this year and the leaves are extra bright. The sun shines through them at an impossible angle so that you must squint to see the person you are talking to, or the color of the traffic lights. The yellow of the gingko floors me. Caught underneath in a gust of wind the leaves are a waterfall; I am a thirsty traveller desperate for a drink.
This morning I made a point to clean up the yard. In the thick and humid of mosquito season the tiny patch of green was sacrificed to the dogs; the only ones willing to brave such conditions. The city mosquitoes are vicious and relentless, in the height of the summer worse than many of the wilder areas we’ve been in. Mostly they are Asian Tiger mosquitoes (Aedes albopictus), a transplant from southeast asia with a penchant for mammal blood and a willingness to feed throughout the day, not just during the reliable dusk and dawn business hours of our native mosquitoes. With several frosts under this season’s belt, it is finally safe to go out there again, and I am glad.
In the early spring Wil harvested three small logs from a neglected scrap of forest near the city’s edge. He wanted them for a project he was working on, but I ended up co-opting them for seats for the kids. Really, they just ended up laying dormant and the grass grew up around them and they were forgotten for a large part of the summer and fall.
Today I rolled one over and was shocked to discover a red-backed salamander (Plethodon cinereus) hiding underneath! She was sluggish from the cooler temperatures, but warmed up in the palm of my cupped hand and wriggled around a bit. We settled her back under the log and left it where it was. A few minutes later Revel picked up a brick and there were two more, tiny sized, in their black phase and squiggling all over in a nice sunny spot! All told we probably found six or seven, of varying sizes, and several little piles of eggs too. A promise of more to come.
So amazing, how when we moved here in the spring the yard was just a patch of sad grass, and after a season of planting perennials and a healthy dose of rampant neglect, a little woodland habitat is blossoming out of nowhere. My heart’s bursting about it, even just sitting here writing this, thinking of nothing turning into something, and those wriggly little amphibians finding a home in our backyard.
A week ago or so there was a huge rainstorm, accompanied by a quick burst of lightning and wind. I had just reached out to close the back door when I heard a huge crack and saw most of the old silver maple in our neighbor’s backyard come ripping down. He hired a company to come clear the debris and, anticipating future trouble from the other old maple on his property, had that one taken down too. Now there are just two rather tall stumps standing guard, some displaced squirrels and a vague absence of something when I look out our window, the same empty space I sense in my mother now that her cancer is gone.
The squirrels lost a few good nests in those old leafy trees, and I wouldn’t be surprised if they crawl into attics and under roofs looking for a warm place to sleep. Trees are scarce on this end of the block and those of us that care to notice mourn the loss of even one.